111 things to do with kids in San Francisco

111 things to do with kids in San Francisco
by Amy Graff
Print this out, post it on your fridge and start exploring the city.
1. ☐ Eat an ice cream treat at the St. Francis Fountain, open since 1918
on lower 24th Street in the Mission District.
2. ☐ Stick a penny into “Laffing Sal” at the Musée Mecanique. She’s
creepy but a classic who came from The Funhouse at San Francisco’s
Playland at the Beach.
3. ☐ Bike along Golden Gate Park’s John F Kennedy Drive on a Sunday
when the street is closed to traffic.
4. ☐ Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.
5. ☐ Build a sandcastle at Baker Beach.
6. ☐ Rent a rowboat at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.
7. ☐ Step inside Mission Dolores, the oldest intact building in San
Francisco. The neighboring Cemetery is the final resting place for
numerous Ohlone, Miwok and other First Californians.
8. ☐ Race your friend on the double slide and fly high on the swings at
Julius Kahn Playground in Presidio Heights.
9. ☐ Take the Alcatraz tour. Tickets sell out weeks in advance all
summer long, but in winter you can score same-day tickets.
10. ☐ Pick out a pastry at La Victoria Mexican Bakery on lower 24th
Street in the Mission District.
11. ☐ Fly a kite at Crissy Field—and then walk over to the Beach Hut
Café to see the five wind turbines out front that will teach you about wind
12. ☐ Hike the Coastal Trail where some of the most intact natural
habitat in the Presidio harbors rare plants.
13. ☐ Visit North Beach’s Washington Square Park in the early morning
and watch the groups practicing Tai Chi.
14. ☐ Enjoy a picnic at Dolores Park and shoot down the 40-foot super
slide. You’ll go faster if you lift up your feet.
15. ☐ Walk along the one-mile Lover’s Lane in the Presidio. U.S.
soldiers once used the trail to visit their lovers in the city.
16. ☐ Look for the wild parrots on Telegraph Hill. (Can’t find them? Try
Upper Fort Mason, near the Golden Gate National Recreation Area
17. ☐ Wade in the Bay at Crissy Field Beach.
18. ☐ Visit the kittens and puppies at the SFSPCA.
19. ☐ Check out books from the Children’s Center at the Main Library.
20. ☐ Slurp up a bowl of pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) at Turtle Tower
in the Tenderloin.
21. ☐ Gaze at the Foucault Pendulum until it knocks over a pin at the
California Academy of Sciences. (Don’t miss a show at the Morrison
22. ☐ Step inside City Hall and stand under the dome, one of the tallest
in the world. Look up and scream “Wow!”
23. ☐ Take a walk down the Mission District’s Balmy Alley and Clarion
Alley, where you’ll find the most colorful collections of murals in the
24. ☐ Look for turtles in the pond at the San Francisco Botanical
25. ☐ Climb over the moon bridge in the Japanese Tea Garden.
26. ☐ Attend a sing-along movie at the Castro Theater. Sound of Music
plays over the Thanksgiving holiday; other favorites include Mary
Poppins and Mamma Mia.
27. ☐ Shop for vegetables in Chinatown and use them to make a stir-fry
at home.
28. ☐ Ride the cable cars all the way from Union Square to Fisherman’s
29. ☐ Walk the one-block stretch of Lombard that twists and turns
between Hyde and Leavenworth.
30. ☐ Zip down the slides, climb up the rope structure and swing across
the monkey bars at Golden Gate Park’s Children’s Quarter, originally
built in 1887 and recognized as our nation’s first-ever public playground.
31. ☐ Attend the Meet the Animals presentation put on at the Randall
Museum every Saturday at 11:15 a.m. Pet a snake, feed a turtle, feel a
rabbit’s soft coat.
32. ☐ Explore Cayuga Park in the Excelsior. Gardener Demitrio
Braceros has transformed this spot right next to the Bart tracks into a
magical land with winding paths, wooden sculptures and flowers.
33. ☐ Go out for dim sum on Clement Street. Try Wing Lee Bakery or
Good Luck.
34. ☐ Shop for art supplies at Flax on Market Street. (Great place for
birthday gifts too.)
35. ☐ Lick an ice cream from Mitchell’s in Noe Valley.
36. ☐ Drive to the top of Twin Peaks.
37. ☐ Fill up on French toast with Nutella and fresh strawberries at The
Ramp’s weekend brunch. Kids can watch the boats cruise by at this
waterfront eatery.
38. ☐ Stroll Ocean Beach in the early morning and look for sand dollars.
39. ☐ Buy chocolate malt balls at Miette in Hayes Valley.
40. ☐ Check out the Fire Department Museum where you can see an
engine from 1810.
41. ☐ Spend your savings at Ambassador Toys, The Ark or Jeffrey’s
where you can still find classic, well-made toys.
42. ☐ Order the Bullet Train children’s meal at Mifune in Japantown. It
comes with cold soba noodles and tempura served on a toy train.
43. ☐ Zip down the 25-foot tube slide at the Yerba Buena Gardens Play
44. ☐ Glide across the ice at the Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center.
45. ☐ Knock down some pins at Presidio Bowling Center.
46. ☐ Take a whirl on the carousel at Golden Gate Park.
47. ☐ Watch the 4 p.m. giraffe feeding at the San Francisco Zoo.
48. ☐ Hike the Lands End Trail, from the Cliff House to the Palace of
the Legion of Honor. Stop in the Lands End Lookout Visitor Center and
Cafe for a bowl of clam chowder.
49. ☐ Go for dinner at the Beach Chalet at Sunset.
50. ☐ Order whatever is fresh out of the fryer at Bob’s Donuts and
Pastry Shop on Polk, and then walk down to Aquatic Park and watch the
swimmers and ships pass by.
51. ☐ Ride to the top of the tower at the De Young Museum. It’s free.
52. ☐ Take a class at the Cartoon Art Museum.
53. ☐ Check out the Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s Battery
Chamberlin, the last six-inch “disappearing gun” of its type on the West
Coast. On the first full weekend of each month, take part in
demonstrations of the gun.
54. ☐ Visit Fort Point. Attend the Cannon Loading Demonstration to
find out how soldiers were taught to load and fire a Napoleon 12-pounder
cannon during a Civil War artillery drill.
55. ☐ Pet the baby sharks (they don’t bite!) at the Aquarium of the Bay.
56. ☐ Attend a family program at the Asian Art Museum.
57. ☐ Say hello to the sea lions at Pier 39.
58. ☐ Catch a Giants game at AT&T Park.
59. ☐ Ride a ferry to Angel Island State Park. Pack a picnic. Go for a
60. ☐ Volunteer at the San Francisco Food Bank.
61. ☐ Check out the three-story-high mosaic portrait of an African girl
composed of some 2,100 photos at the Museum of African Diaspora.
62. ☐ Attend a service at Glide Memorial Church in the Tenderloin.
63. ☐ Marvel at the 100-year-old giant Imperial Philodendron inside the
Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.
64. ☐ Walk around the expansive lobby of the Hyatt Regency.
65. ☐ Visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in Chinatown.
66. ☐ Chow down on pizza at Giorgio’s in the Inner Richmond. Vinyl
booths, red-check tablecloths and a children’s night when little hands get
to make their own pies.
67. ☐ Watch the trains circle round the tracks maintained by the Golden
Gate Model Railroaders in the basement of the Randall Museum.
Saturdays only.
68. ☐ Suck on a fruity Popsicle from Bi-Rite Creamery in the Mission
District. (You don’t need to wait in the long ice cream line!)
69. ☐ Step aboard the Balclutha at the Hyde Street Pier. The 1886 threemasted ship once transported cargo between California and the British
Isles via Cape Horn.
70. ☐ Learn what makes San Francisco’s famous cable cars move on a
tour of the Cable Car Museum.
71. ☐ Get a free balloon at one of the cities many Cole Hardware stores.
72. ☐ Create gigantic bubbles at the Exploratorium.
73. ☐ Let your imagination run wild during an art class at Precita Eyes
in Bernal Heights.
74. ☐ Watch Jackie Floyd Jones perform swinging 1920s tunes on her
musical saw and guitar with her pal, a dancing pink wooden cat, at the
Saturday Alemany Farmers’ Market.
75. ☐ Visit Coit Tower–and ride the elevator that takes you to the top of
the 210-foot tower in the elevator.
76. ☐ Attend one of SFMOMA’s Family Sundays when admission is
free for kids and docents lead family-friendly gallery tours.
77. ☐ Watch the break-dancers at the Powell Street Cable Car turntable.
78. ☐ Stroll the halls of the Ferry Building while noshing on a baguette
piece from Acme Bread. Outside wave to the boats coming and going.
79. ☐ Listen to the ocean’s song at the Wave Organ, just east of the
yacht club on Bay Street. When the waves crash over the sculpture of
PVC pipes, sound is created.
80. ☐ Watch the remote-control model boats sail around Spreckels Lake
in Golden Gate Park.
81. ☐ Walk by the Painted Ladies, a row of elaborately painted
Victorians facing Alamo Square Park on Steiner Street. Afterward, play
in the park.
82. ☐ Catch one of the free summer performances at Stern Grove.
83. ☐ Read inspiring words from Martin Luther King Jr. behind the
cascading fountain at Yerba Buena Gardens.
84. ☐ Attend a family concert at the San Francisco Symphony.
85. ☐ See a Concord Coach used by Wells Fargo in the 1860s at the
Wells Fargo History Museum on Montgomery.
86. ☐ View the Diego Rivera mural, “Making a Fresco,” at the San
Francisco Art Institute on Russian Hill.
87. ☐ Feed the ducks at Mountain Lake in the southern edge of the
88. ☐ Order an ice cream cone at the first-ever Swensen’s on Russian
89. ☐ Tap your toes to live jazz on Friday evenings at Bird & Beckett
Books in Glen Park. Also browse the wonderful selection of children’s
picture and chapter books.
90. ☐ Take a docent-led tour of the Haas-Lilienthal House, the city’s
only Victorian house museum.
91. ☐ Zoom down the Winfield Street Slide, nestled among the trees and
curvy streets of Bernal Heights, on a piece of cardboard.
92. ☐ Spread out a blanket at Russian Hill’s lovely Michelangelo Park.
Enjoy a picnic and then take a nap.
93. ☐ View the collection of works by El Greco, Rubens, Rembrandt,
Monet, Matisse, and Picasso at the Legion of Honor. Say “hello” to “The
94. ☐ Savor scones spread with clotted cream and finger sandwiches at
Lovejoy’s Tea Room in Noe Valley.
95. ☐ Explore Justin Herman Plaza’s Vaillancourt Fountain with
walkways that allow you to walk over, under and through its waterfalls.
96. ☐ Chow down on a burger and fries at one of the city’s oldfashioned Mel’s diners.
97. ☐ Splash around in the Carl Larsen Sava Pool, one of the city’s
nicest, cleanest public pools.
98. ☐ Kayak along the waterfront.
99. ☐ Go for a hike and watch the hang-gliders at Fort Funston.
100. ☐ Sit on the dock of the bay at India Basin Natural Area in Hunter’s
Point, known for its sun, birds, stunning views and fishing dock.
101. ☐ Take the ferry to Sausalito.
102. ☐ Pay your respects to artist Keith Haring’s “Three Dancing
Figures”–an abstract sculpture featuring brightly colored figures with
their arms and legs intertwined–at Moscone Center between Howard and
103. ☐ Walk down–or up–the Lyon Street Steps in Pacific Heights.
104. ☐ Eat a burrito at La Taqueria on Mission Street.
105. ☐ Bike ride along the Embarcadero, passing under the Bay Bridge.
106. ☐ Make a claymation movie at the Children’s Creativity Museum
in Yerba Buena Gardens.
107. ☐ Jump for joy at the House of Air indoor trampoline park in the
108. ☐ Explore the steep trails of Glen Canyon, while keeping an eye
out for the coyotes.
109. ☐ Hike around the 61-acre Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve.
110. ☐ Take in views of the Pacific through the Camera Obscura at
Ocean Beach. Based on a 15th century design by Leonardo da Vinci, this
unusual device produces live 360-degree images of the Seal Rock Area.
111. ☐ View American bison in Golden Gate Park.